There is one thing that I can’t stand about football fans and that is the fickleness that arises once something doesn’t quite go the way you had hoped it would – or had planned. Last night’s victory for Barcelona was credited as a ‘win for football’ and we should all bow our heads in acknowledgment of the beautiful football that Barcelona play. In case anyone didn’t know – Barcelona have always played that way and will continue to always player that way. It is instilled in their blood and soul – ever since the days of Johan Cryuff. Barcelona play 4-3-3, all the way down to the youth teams might I add, as Cryuff believed there are more attacking options available to you. They also continue to produce the same type of ball playing footballers – do people believe this is coincidence??!
Lets face facts, non-United fans are over the moon at United squandering their European crown, in such a limp fashion, but you have to ask yourself ‘did Barcelona dominate proceedings or did United throw away an great opportunity?’ In reality it was a bit of both, Barcelona passed United off the park – like they would to any club – but it was United’s poor game plan that in my eyes was the inevitable downfall of the 2008 European Champions. Firstly, it was a brave move by Ferguson to take the game to Barcelona in the opening ten minutes as United tried to get that early goal – against the run of play Eto’o went down the other end and scored – an enormous blow to how United set out – it was a gamble that didn’t quite play off.
After that United didn’t turn up. Wayne Rooney was anonymous whilst Ronaldo proceeded in trying to take the whole side on his own (or trying to hard to impress Spanish opposition) – Michael Carrick and Anderson were chasing shadows and the whole defense looked shaky. It is painful to say but this is the reality of the matter – we had an opportunity to win back to back European Cups and we didn’t take it, simply because we didn’t compete with Barca after they scored and our initial gameplan was wrong.
There was far too much space between the defense and midfield, which gave the likes of Xavi, Messi and Iniesta time and space to pick their passes. I highlighted in the preview yesterday that United needed to contain Barcelona forcing them wide rather than through the centre – as we had done on the two previous occasions last season. Don’t be under the illusion Barcelona were a poor team last season – of course they’ve improved under a bright, young new manager – but they played the same way and we contained them. Its interested to see that the top three for pass completion were Xavi, Iniesta and Messi – whilst the next three, who were United players, were Ferdinand, Vidic and O’shea - highlighting where we and they played most of the football.
However, who I am to criticise Fergie? We’ve had an amazing season and were let down in the last game of the season. I’ve heard people talking about rebuilding and the end of the line for some players. I’ve never heard so much nonsense in all my life. A month ago United were on course for five trophies – something that in ridiculous to even consider. Twelve months ago we had won a glorious domestic and European double – only the second time in our 130 year history – indicating how difficult it is. But remember four years ago? The summer of 2004, Porto were European Champions and we were a million miles away from achieving what we did last season or even this season! Think about 1993 when the club had to wait 26 years to win a trophy – do people not remember this? We’ve been spoilt under Fergie and mark my words – this isn’t the end of this side yet.
Touching on the point raised in the opening paragraph about fickle supporters – it really does annoy me. How can you ninety minutes before think someone is a glorious champion then at the end of the game believe they are a total clown – its moronic! Remember United went unbeaten a record 25 times in Europe and lost to one of the best teams in the world. I accept that the performance was inept and Barcelona dominated proceedings but to sum up all the work you’ve done (over a couple of seasons in this instance) in one season in one game is plain ignorant. Forget Real Madrid’s nine European Cups and Liverpool’s five European Cup (arguably at a time where it was maybe easier to win the competition) – United should be proud to have had three amazing seasons where we tasted disappointed in Milan two years ago, success in Moscow 12 months ago and unfortunately – last night – we just didn’t turn up.